AncestorNews: Case of Neglect

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

You might think I’m stuck on this cemetery preservation issue. At times, it feels like that to me too. But, a situation was recently brought to my attention that I want to share—and then I’ll do my best to move on to other subjects.

A month ago, my mom and sister Vicki were in Washington, DC, and during their travels they repeatedly passed the entrance to an old cemetery. Although the sign in front said it was a National Cemetery, my sister thought it must be wrong because of the unkempt nature of the grounds. She called me from DC and asked me to get online and do a little research. Here’s what I found.

On July 11 and 12, 1864, Confederate forces attacked the outskirts of Washington, DC, near Fort Stevens. President Lincoln actually came under fire as he watched the battle from the fort’s ramparts.

The soldiers who died in this battle were buried at what’s now Battleground National Cemetery, a half-mile north of the fort. Just an acre in size, Battleground is one of the smallest national cemeteries in the country.

Because of its National Cemetery status, and being under the auspices of the National Park Service, one would think this cemetery would be as well-kept as every other national cemetery I’ve seen (for example, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, which you can see here). However, as you can see from the photos my sister took, Battleground is filled with weeds, the paint on the flag pole is badly peeling and according to Vicki, trash is heaped up against one side of the grounds.

Does anyone know the laws governing national cemeteries?

With all the publicity given to Arlington National Cemetery, do you think the folks in DC just don’t have the interest, willingness or time to keep up this one acre of graves? I’ve e-mailed the US Department of the Interior (the agency that oversees the National Park Service) and notified a reporter at the Washington Post, who just wrote an article on a historic African-American cemetery that’s been lost to time.